UNION — It has customers and business contacts throughout the United States of America and around the world but most people in Union County still know little or nothing about Old American Lumber, LLC and the products it provides that has won it a global clientele.
Located at 1218 South Duncan Bypass, Union, Old American Lumber, LLC was founded 25 years ago by Howard Johnson who realized there was a market for a very special type of wood and a great opportunity for an entrepreneur who could provide it.
“We are a saw mill,” Howard’s son, Brian Johnson, Director of Sales for Old American Lumber, LLC, said on Monday. “We take down old barns and buildings. We take that wood and mill it into flooring, mantles, ceiling beams, anything wood in a home. This is reclaimed lumber.”
Johnson said that his father began the company after Union Mill burned down to clean up the site which included the wood that had survived the conflagration. He said that in the course of doing so, his father noticed that other mills were interested in acquiring that wood to replace wood structures in their facilities.
“At this point we saw where these mills were coming in and getting the wood,” Johnson said. “So my dad got a saw and began milling the wood. It paid more, and we just kind of grew from there.”
Growth is putting it mildly, as Johnson said Old American Lumber has grown to where it is supplying reclaimed wood to customers around the country and overseas. It has also built up a network of suppliers around the country which supply it with other types of wood in addition to the stock it has acquired locally.
“We have our own stock here, mostly heart pine,” Johnson said. “That’s what comes out of the cotton mills. We also do a lot with oak, wormy chestnut, hickory, etc.
“Eighty to eighty-five percent of what we sell is heart pine,” he said. “This is because there are pine trees everywhere in this area and that’s mainly what we deal in. Pine and oak are our two biggest sellers, but mostly pine.”
While the overwhelming bulk of their business is heart pine, Johnson said the company still does a significant business in other types of wood as well, and that’s where its business contact around the country come in.
“Because we’ve been in business so long, we’ve got a lot of contacts across the country to provide the others,” Johnson said. “For example, black walnut is mainly in the northwest. So if we have an order for black walnut it’s just a phone call away.”
The company then mills the wood to the specifications of its customers and ships them their orders, orders that in a number of instances go to customers as far away southwestern Europe and eastern Asia.
“We ship all across the country (and) we have some overseas clients as well,” Johnson said. “Taiwan and Spain are our two biggest ones.’
In some cases, the wood that Old American Lumber sends overseas, makes its way back to the United States.
“There’s a company over there (Taiwan) that will take our raw material, they’ll mill it over there and ship a finished product back to the states to sell,” Johnson said.
In America, many of Old American Lumber’s customers are mills who are interested in acquiring milled wood from mills, mill houses, barns, and equally old structures to use to replace the wood in their facilities. Johnson said there’s a great deal of these old structures still around and that Old American Lumber obtains the wood from them to supply to their clients. He said these customers want that wood because it is compatible with their structures which are often equally old if not older.
Johnson said that, for example, if a mill has water damage to it wooden floors, Old American Lumber can obtain wood from an old mill home and supply it to the customer. He said these mills are looking for wood from structures that were built around the same time as theirs rather then purchase new wooden flooring because the “flooring from sixty to eighty years ago does not match up to today’s. It’s just not the same.”
Old American Lumber does not, however, just supply lumber to its clients, it also mills them to their specifications.
“All the orders are custom done,” Johnson said. “Like the tongue and grove flooring. We can match it with what they currently have.”
Johnson said that this makes installation easier and more cost-effective for the customers.
In addition to mills and other business customers, Johnson said the company’s clientele also includes a number of retirees in this area who have taken up woodworking. He said that with Old American Lumber “they have a local source for their wood.”
Johnson stressed Old American Lumber is not in the business of providing things like 2x4s, something he said the company has been asked about over the years. He reiterated that the products the company provides are custom produced items made of reclaimed lumber including:
• Solid and engineered flooring
• Fireplace mantels
• Bar and table tops
• Hand hewn beams
• Artifacts and fixtures
Johnson said that while it has developed a successful business nationwide and overseas, Old American Lumber and what it does is largely unknown to the people of Union County. He said he’s hoping this story will change that and enable Old American Lumber to grow its local business like it has its national and international business.
“We’ve been here for so long and we think this is a good opportunity to explain what we do,” Johnson said.
For more information about Old American Lumber, LLC and the products it provides, call 864-427-3193 or email [email protected]
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.